Last month, aside from August 2008, was the best yet in terms of trade for the Taverners in Godshill on the Isle of Wight, with Lisa Choi and Roger Serjent's pub and eating house taking about £45,000. All the more impressive as it was done in what Serjent terms one of the "winter months", outside the island's peak tourist periods of (oddly) January and the summer period, which peaks in July.
The secret to their success appears to be largely word-of-mouth, with more and more punters travelling to enjoy the wife-and-husband team's hospitality and Serjent's cooking. The duo saw a bounce in business after being featured in Taste of the Isle of Wight at the start of the year, and are keen to make more of the media.
To this end, Serjent and Choi have given over a plot in the pub's garden for the kids at pre-school Godshill Griffins, which their two children attend. Once a week, the pre-school pupils come down to see how their green-fingered attempts are going and the Taverners has some positive publicity, ideal for the local paper. It's the sort of low-cost project that sponsor 3663's communications controller Lindsay Winser has been encouraging, including inviting down a representative from the island's chamber of commerce to experience the Taverners. A Guardian journalist is on the way, and The Times has also been in touch, with a mind to featuring the business in articles on the Isle of Wight for their respective travel sections.
Mentor Lee Cash, co-founder of the now 10-strong Peach Pub Company, approves, believing direct advertising in the media has little value. "When we opened our first site, the Rose & Crown in Warwick, we relied on word of mouth. It worked well, but took six to eight months for us to reach the level of turnover we have traded at since," Cash says. Now Peach is bigger and, in Cash's own words, "has its marketing right"- he and business partner Hamish Stoddart have found the effective way of getting new sites motoring from the off. This is to research and then target VIPs in the area and invite them along to share their views as part of a 10-day soft-opening period. "Involving your guests in the business is incredibly powerful, so much so that we do it now for all our seasonal menu changes," Cash says.
High Street, Godshill, Isle of Wight PO38 3HZ, 01983 840707
3663 ON THE TAVERNERS
When Lindsay Winser, communications controller at 3663, visited the Taverners, she was impressed with the PR-positive mind-set of owners Roger Serjent and Lisa Choi.
"Lisa and Roger have built their business and established a good reputation among the locals in Godshill for their quality, home-made, locally sourced food and relaxed atmosphere," says Lindsay. "However, the transient customers - the tourists and seasonal trade - do not currently have the opportunity to understand the pub's philosophy and the time, care and attention that goes into its offering. By looking at ways to share this ethos, visitors will appreciate the quality experience that they are receiving and, at the same time, the Taverners can build up a reputation with tourists ahead of the 2010 season.
"One such option would be teaming up with other businesses in Godshill - the tearoom, jewellers, model village and chocolate shop for example - to jointly promote the village and all it has to offer through on-board advertising on the ferries between the island and the mainland. I've offered the services of 3663's design team free of charge to create an advert, and have proposed that seven or eight village businesses team up to share the cost of the advertising on board the ferries for a year."
Roger agrees that this is a good way forward. He said: "We looked into advertising on ferries before but it was just too expensive. By teaming up with other businesses in the village, the idea becomes much more feasible."
3663 has also suggested that the couple look into contributing to the Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide to help harness the island's tourist trade - a suggestion that has opened several doors for the pub.
Winser explains: "I met with Zoë Stroud, group marketing manager of the Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce, who not only said she would hold the print deadline of the Eating Out Guide so that the Taverners could be included, but was so impressed with the venue and its offering that she is now planning to hold one of the Chamber's networking events at the Taverners. This will introduce a whole new market to the pub, and forge a link between the Taverners and the Chamber of Commerce."
Roger concludes: "3663's advice so far has been really helpful - I could have done with this last winter ahead of this season!"
By the time you read this, the Taverners at Godshill on the Isle of Wight will have its own, specially brewed cask ale, (pictured right) courtesy of Yates's Brewery. Part of husband-and-wife team Roger Serjent and Lisa Choi's commitment to offering something different to the pub norm, the 4.1abv ale looks like being just the ticket.
"If you walk into a pub and it has its own ale, you know you're on to a surefire winner," says Serjent, who selflessly put himself forward with a few pub regulars to road-test the new product ahead of launch. Serjent has recruited another chef for the kitchen to make four including him, in a bid to free him up occasionally to be front of house and, in turn, give wife Choi time to catch up on paperwork and, of course, spend more time with their two young children.
Business has been good for the past few weeks and the couple are finding the small, but refurbished front bar and dining area is becoming rather snug, with the result that customers are having to be turned away on Friday and Saturday nights.
With a hopefully busy summer ahead, Serjentand Choi want to make use of the pub's larger, and still largely untouched, back bar, which is currently used for functions. However, they don't want to make customers feel removed from the bustle at the front of the premises.